Despite Boyd County’s traditional standing among the 16th Region’s top echelon, East Carter coach Hager Easterling said his team took no special delight in taking it to the Lady Lions on Saturday night.
They were simply the next team in the way.
Visiting East Carter, ranked ninth in the state in the Associated Press poll, ran its winning streak to 11 games and stayed undefeated against 16th Region opponents with a 56-42 victory at Boyd County Middle School.
”That’s what we try to teach the girls: the most important game on our schedule this year was tonight,” Easterling said. “Now next Friday, the most important game on our schedule will be Russell, and I think that’s the way you have to approach the season, because you know what, what I’ve found out is, it doesn’t matter if you get beat by Boyd County or Russell, you feel just as stinky either way.”
Concurred junior guard Megan Stickler: “We’re just playing hard against every team. We make sure we play each team in front of us.”
East Carter led 20-9 after one quarter and opened up a 20-point lead late in the first half by holding Boyd County to one field goal in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
“We’ve got some good athletes, we’ve got some good quickness (and) we’ve got a girl back there that’s the most dominating presence defensively in the paint in the region,” Easterling said, citing junior center Kelsey Stumbo, who had four blocks. “She lets us play a lot of pressure out on the perimeter because we know that if somebody gets by us, that we’ve got somebody back there that can help us.”
Haley Hall and Stickler pitched in 16 points apiece for the Lady Raiders (18-1), who are 11-0 against region teams. They had lost five of their last six to Boyd County coming in.
Stickler had four of East Carter’s seven 3-pointers. Six of those came in the first half. She said the key was “driving and kicking out and let the defense collapse.”
Kristen Mayo notched 14 points for the Lady Raiders, who shot 53.7 percent from the field and limited Boyd County to 35.1 percent shooting.
Freshman Alexis Lunsford led the Lady Lions (10-6) with 15 points. Coach Pete Fraley said he knew she would be key because point guard Houston Reeves missed the game due to what he said was a concussion suffered Tuesday night against Fleming County.
Taylor Wheeler netted 11 points and Logan Fraley added 10, six of them coming at the foul stripe.
“(Wheeler) gets a lot of attention, and Logan the same way,” Pete Fraley said. “We turned her into a point guard tonight and that’s not her normal position, but with Houston out, that’s what you have to do. Other people have to step up, and we’ll be better for it down the road.”
Lunsford’s trey got Boyd County within 16-9 with 2:12 to play in the first quarter, but the Lady Lions didn’t score again from the field until Lunsford drove the lane for two with 1:07 to go in the first half.
In the meantime, East Carter was reeling off a 16-3 run, capped by Stickler’s 3 with 2:10 to go before the break, to lead 32-12.
“We got in rhythm,” Easterling said. “Shooting is so much dependent upon rhythm. ‘Are you ready to shoot the ball before you catch it? Are you believing in yourself? Are you moving? Have you got in the gap? Are you ready to go?’ And we were doing that the first half.”
East Carter’s lead was never seriously threatened after that, although the Lady Lions did outscore the Lady Raiders by four points in the second half.
“They came out and jumped on us early, but my kids didn’t quit and that’s what we’ll take from this game,” Pete Fraley said. “We knew what kind of team we were getting ready to face, and it’s not hype. They’re good. They’re a very good basketball team, and my kids, they fought, and we’ll learn from this and we’ll see them again down the road in Grayson.”
Easterling said Hall hadn’t been scoring at her usual clip recently, but that Bryana Greenhill netted 19 points at Fleming County earlier in the week to help the Lady Raiders win decisively in Flemingsburg.
Greenhill didn’t score Saturday, but Hall came back to tie for game-high scoring honors.
“That’s why you’re a team,” Easterling said. “This team right here is the epitome of the definition of the word ‘team.’ They pick each other up.”
The two teams meet again Feb. 8 at East Carter.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.